Frances Xavier Cabrini, otherwise known as Mother Cabrini, was an Italian-American immigrant who
dedicated her life to the assistance of other Italian-American newcomers who were undergoing the often-difficult
experience of immigrating to the United States. Born in Italy, Cabrini founded a missionary with several other
women. She was then directed by Pope Leo XIII in 1889 to move her missionary to the United States in order to assist
the large number of immigrants that were entering the nation. Cabrini tirelessly worked to assist the Italian
community in New York City, who often lived in substantial poverty. She created orphanages to care for hundreds of
parentless Italian-American children. Cabrini also worked to educate not only children, but also adults, so that they
could advance themselves in their new society. Cabrini helped to cultivate what is perhaps the pinnacle of
Italian-American culture, heritage, and pride: the success of the Italian immigrant. Thus, she should be
commemorated in the redesign of the Piazza in Little Italy.
Immigration is the Italian-American story. Beginning in the late 19th century, a period of mass migration
from Italy to the United States began, lasting from 1890 to 1920. During this period, more than four million Italians
arrived to American cities, according to the Library of Congress. Now, the Census Bureau claims that more than
sixteen million current American citizens have Italian ancestry. Many of these sixteen million only have to go back
one or two generations to find a grandparent or great-grandparent who bravely left their home in Italy to come to the
United States. The relative recency of Italian immigration and its significant generational expansion demonstrates its
importance to Italian-American culture and heritage and the resulting need for the immigrant’s experience to be
As the number of Italian-Americans in the United States increased, the demographic grew more successful
and became an important keystone of overall American society and culture. However, this expansion and growth
was not easy, requiring significant determination and fortitude. Upon arrival to the United States, Italian-Americans
lacked money and large possessions. Impoverished immigrants crowded together in cities, and their high-density
communities often led to unsanitary conditions. Immigrants often worked dangerous hard-labor jobs, as well.
Throughout these difficulties, immigrants were supported by the work of fellow-immigrants like Mother Cabrini.
Her efforts to take care of Italian-American orphans and to educate other Italian immigrants provided a cornerstone
that allowed the Italian-American communities to begin their rise to prosperity. Her bolstering of Italian-American
immigrants led to her receiving sainthood in the Roman Catholic church as the patron saint of immigration.
Italian-American culture, heritage, and pride is best found in the experiences of Italian-American
immigrants, who overcame the struggle of poverty and came to be defining features of the history and modern
culture of the United States. This transition was catalyzed by the likes of fellow immigrants and humanitarians, such
as Mother Cabrini; therefore, she should be commemorated in the redesign of the Little Italy Piazza.